Valve Software Releases Steam Audio SDK on GitHub

Subject: General Tech | February 26, 2017 - 12:13 AM |
Tagged: valve, pc gaming

When VR started to take off, developers begun to realize that audio is worth some attention. Historically, it’s been difficult to market, but that’s par for the course when it comes to VR technology, so I guess that’s no excuse to pass it up anymore. Now Valve, the owners of the leading VR platform on the PC have just released an API for audio processing: Steam Audio SDK.

valve-2017-steamaudio.png

Image Credit: Valve Software

First, I should mention that the SDK is not quite open. The GitHub page (and the source code ZIP in its releases tab) just contain the license (which is an EULA) and the readme. That said, Valve is under no obligation to provide these sorts of technology to the open (even though it would be nice) and they are maintaining builds for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. It is currently available as a C API and a plug-in for Unity. Unreal Engine 4, FMOD, and WWISE plug-ins are “coming soon”.

As for the technology itself, it has quite a few interesting features. As you might expect, it supports HRTF out of the box, which modifies a sound call to appear like it’s coming from a defined direction. The algorithm is based on experimental data, rather than some actual, physical process.

More interesting is their sound propagation and occlusion calculations. They are claiming that this can be raycast, and static scenes can bake some of the work ahead-of-time, which will reduce runtime overhead. Unlike VRWorks Audio or TrueAudio Next, it looks like they’re doing it on the CPU, though. I’m guessing this means that it will mostly raycast to fade between versions of the audio, rather than summing up contributions from thousands of individual rays at runtime (or an equivalent algorithm, like voxel leakage).

Still, this is available now as a C API and a Unity Plug-in, because Valve really likes Unity lately.

Source: Valve

AZiO's Armato mechnical keyboard has a big knob

Subject: General Tech | February 24, 2017 - 03:58 PM |
Tagged: cherry mx brown, input, mechanical keyboard, armato, AZiO

The Azio Armato is a big aluminium keyboard, with five macro keys located on the lower left, on the upper right are media control buttons beside the large volume knob.  The keyboard does come with a wrist rest, which attaches via a magnet so you can choose to remove it at will.  The keyboard does not require software, lighting is controlled via keystrokes and macros are recorded by pushing that large REC button and one of the macro keys, then up to up to 31 keys in sequence and the REC button again to save the macro.  You can see more of the Armato over at Benchmark Reviews.

azio_armato_keyboard_front.jpg

"In any case Benchmark Reviews has in hand their Armato Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, model MGK-ARMATO-01. As a single-color backlit mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX switches, it might seem as if there’s little to distinguish it from the many other similar products available. But first appearances can be deceiving, as we’ll find out in this review."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Farm out your hard drive for profit?

Subject: General Tech | February 24, 2017 - 03:04 PM |
Tagged: storj, farming, bitcoin

Startup company Storj has a new twist on an old service, they are offering secure, distributed storage but the storage is located on hard drives which consumers are renting to them.  You can set up an account and get 1.5 cents per gigabyte you give to them.  You certainly are not going to get rich running out and buying some SSDs to use but if you have a few old HDDs kicking around perhaps you would like to make a few crypto-coins on the side.  They current have 8200 farmers and more than 15000 users so there is certainly some interest.  On the other hand residential internet stability and the reliability of consumer hard drives could lead to unexpected interruptions to your access.  Drop by The Register for links to sign up for the service or sell some space if you are interested.

storj_hdd_rental.jpg

"The network consists of the internet and a shared community of “farmers”, users who rent out their spare desktop hard drive space and bandwidth. Payment, at $0.015/GB, is via a cryptocurrency: namely, Bitcoin."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Register

30 nanoseconds is way too slow, down with the latency gap!

Subject: General Tech | February 23, 2017 - 10:45 AM |
Tagged: hbll, cache, l3 cache, Last Level Cache

There is an insidious latency gap lurking in your computer between your DRAM and your CPUs L3 cache.  The size of the latency depends on your processor as not all L3 cache are created equally but regardless there are wasted CPU cycles which could be reclaimed.   Piecemakers Technology, the Industrial Technology Research Institute of Taiwan and Intel are on the case, with a project to design something to fit in that niche between the CPU and DRAM.  Their prototype Last Level Cache is a chip with 17ns latency which would improve the efficiency at which L3 cache could be filled to pass onto the next level in the CPU.  The Register likens it to the way Intel has fit XPoint between the speed of SSDs and DRAM.  It will be interesting to see how this finds its way onto the market.

dram_l3_cache_gap.jpg

"Jim Handy of Objective Analysis writes about this: "Furthermore, there's a much larger latency gap between the processor's internal Level 3 cache and the system DRAM than there is between any adjacent cache levels.""

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

It's a race to the pointy stikk! DoW 3 trailer drops

Subject: General Tech | February 22, 2017 - 02:04 PM |
Tagged: gaming, dawn of war III, wauughh

Dawn of War certainly changes from version to version.  The first involved standard RTS fare, build bases and upgrade using resources collected on the map.  The second was more squad based, with a hero leading meatshields into the fray.  The third incarnation seems to lead off of the gameplay of the second, with at least some base and resource management making a comeback. 

The new feature are superunits, extremely large and destructive units which you will gain access to as you take over portions of the map.  Details are still a bit light but the game engine certainly looks pretty.  You can pop by Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN to find a few of the other older teaser trailers.

"This cinematic-o-gameclip video introduces the broad story in Relic’s RTS and yes, it does basically boil down to finding a pointy stick. But what better item to fight over? If you can win a fight without a pointy stick, just imagine how powerful you’ll be once you get one!"

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Are you sure that's wise? Samsung is shrinking the Note 7's battery so they can sell refurbs

Subject: General Tech | February 22, 2017 - 11:27 AM |
Tagged: Samsung, note 7

From what Slashdot is reporting we are unlikely to see refurbished Note 7s in North America but they will be appearing in markets on the far side of the Pacific.  The battery was determined to be the cause of the rather spectacular failure of Samsung's latest tablet and so they will be installing a battery with a smaller capacity in the refurbished models.  One hopes it is physically smaller or more carfeully manufactured, as it was the expansion and puncturing of the battery which caused them to burst into flames.  It is understandable that Samsung would like to recoup some losses, this seems like a very risky move to undertake.

url.jpg

"Samsung is said to be swapping the Note 7's 3,500 mAh batteries with a "3,000 to 3,200 mAh" batteries, according to The Korean Economic Daily's sources, predominately for sale in emerging markets such as India and Vietnam."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: Slashdot

Intel Details Optane Memory System Requirements

Subject: General Tech, Storage | February 21, 2017 - 07:14 PM |
Tagged: Optane, kaby lake, Intel, 3D XPoint

Intel has announced that its Optane memory will require an Intel Kaby Lake processor to function. While previous demonstrations of the technology used an Intel Skylake processor, it appears this configuration will not be possible on the consumer versions of the technology.

Intel Optane App Accelerator.jpg

Further, the consumer application accelerator drives will also require a 200-series chipset motherboard, and either a M.2 2280-S1-B-M or M.2 2242-S1-B-M connector with two or four PCI-E lanes. Motherboards will have to support NVMe v1.1 and Intel RST (Rapid Storage Technology) 15.5 or newer.

It is not clear why Intel is locking Optane technology to Kaby Lake and whether it is due to technical limitations that they were not able to resolve to keep Skylake compatible or if it is just a matter of not wanting to support the older platform and focus on its new Kaby Lake processors. As such, Kaby Lake is now required if you want UHD Blu Ray playback and Optane 3D XPoint SSDs.

What are your thoughts on this latest bit of Optane news? Has Intel sweetened the pot enough to encourage upgrade hold outs?

Also Read: 

 

Source: Bit-Tech

A good year to sell GPUs

Subject: General Tech | February 21, 2017 - 01:18 PM |
Tagged: jon peddie, marketshare, graphics cards

The GPU market increased 5.6% from Q3 to Q4 of 2016, beating the historical average of -4.7% by quite a large margin, over the year we saw an increase of 21.1%.  That increase is even more impressive when you consider that the total PC market dropped 10.1% in the same time, showing that far more consumers chose to upgrade their existing machines instead of buying new ones.  This makes sense as neither Intel nor AMD offered a compelling reason to upgrade your processor and motherboard for anyone who purchased one in the last two or three years.

AMD saw a nice amount of growth, grabbing almost 8% of the total market from NVIDIA over the year, though they lost a tiny bit of ground between Q3 and Q4 of 2016.  Jon Peddie's sample also includes workstation class GPUs as well as gaming models and it seems a fair number of users chose to upgrade their machines as that market increased just over 19% in 2016.

unnamed.png

"The graphics add-in board market has defied gravity for over a year now, showing gains while the overall PC market slips. The silly notion of integrated graphics "catching up" with discrete will hopefully be put to rest now," said Dr. Jon Peddie, president of Jon Peddie research, the industry's research and consulting firm for graphics and multimedia."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

The Qt Company Announces Qt 3D Studio

Subject: General Tech | February 20, 2017 - 04:46 PM |
Tagged: vulkan, Qt, nvidia

NVIDIA has just donated their entire DRIVE Design Studio to The Qt Company, who will form it into Qt 3D Studio. This product will be a visual editor for 3D user interfaces, where layers of 2D and 3D objects can be created, animated, and integrated into C++ applications. It will take them a little while to clean it up for public consumption, but it will eventually be available under the commercial / open-source dual-license that users of Qt are accustomed to.

If you’re not familiar with the Qt Framework, then, basically, think of a cross-platform, open-source alternative to the .NET framework, although it is based in unmanaged C++. (It also competes with GTK+. This isn’t a major point, but I would like it to be clear that it’s not a two-person race between one proprietary and one open-source player.) When AMD updated their graphics drivers to Crimson Edition, and flaunted huge speed-ups, it was mostly because they switched the control panel's UI framework from .NET to Qt.

As an aside, The Qt Company joined the Khronos Group on the day that Vulkan launched, which was almost exactly a year ago, and they are actively working on integrating the API in their framework. Combined with today’s announcement, it’s not hard to imagine how much easier it will be, some day, to create efficient and beautiful UIs.

Update: Speaking of which, The Qt Company is apparently planning to release Vulkan support with Qt 5.10.

Monday morning penguins

Subject: General Tech | February 20, 2017 - 12:56 PM |
Tagged: linux, linux 4.10

The new week brings a new Linux kernel to users, with some additions which will interest fans of low powered computing as well as those of high powered machines.  The new kernel brings support for the Snapdragon 808 and 810 for those who are working with Linux on those SOCs.  For the high powered crew, added support for L2 and L3 cache on Intel processors, there is now support for virtual GPUs and The Inquirer mentions that AMD cards should get a bit of a boost.  So much for skipping straight to 4.11.

index.jpg

"On the whole, 4.10 didn't end up as small as it initially looked.After the huge release that was 4.9, I expected things to be pretty quiet, but it ended up very much a fairly average release by modern kernel standards. So we have about 13,000 commits (not counting merges - that would be another 1200+ commits if you count those)."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Inquirer

Blizzard Cutting Support for Windows XP and Vista

Subject: General Tech | February 19, 2017 - 05:07 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, blizzard, windows, EoL

Most companies have already abandoned Windows XP and Vista, including Microsoft once Vista leaves extended support in April, but Blizzard is known for long-term support. This is the company that is still selling Diablo 2, even producing retail disks for it last I checked, almost seventeen years after it was released (including a patch last year).

blizzard-battlenet-real01.jpg

Later this year, World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, Diablo III, Hearthstone, and Heroes of the Storm will no longer support Windows XP or Vista. This will not all happen at once, even though it would actually make less sense if they did. I mean, why would they coordinate several teams to release a patch at the same time and maximize annoyance to the affected users who cannot schedule or afford an upgrade at that specific time?

Although, if that’s you, then you should probably get around to it sooner than later.

Source: Blizzard

The Genius SP-925BT bluetooth speaker, the sound is larger than the price tag

Subject: General Tech | February 17, 2017 - 05:09 PM |
Tagged: audio, SP-925BT, genuis, Bluetooth Stereo Speaker

If you are looking for an inexpensive bluetooth speaker that you won't worry about taking to the beach or other places it is at risk of harm, the $30 Genius SP-925BT is not a bad choice.  It features two 50mm speakers and a passive sub-woofer, with a 1500mAh battery.  In addition to Bluetooth 4 connectivity there is also a 3.5mm jack to connect devices without a radio.  Modders Inc tried a variety of audio sources and found the quality and volume perfect for sharing you music with a crowd of people.

sp952bt05.jpg

"Bluetooth technology is rendering wires passé in a world where using a mobile phone is an essential part of daily life. Staying connected no longer requires continuous tethering of devices to cables, so why shouldn’t audio listening enjoy the same freedom as well?"

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Audio Corner

 

Source: Modders Inc

Good news everybody! Those 30 second Youtube ads are going the way of the dodo

Subject: General Tech | February 17, 2017 - 03:35 PM |
Tagged: youtube

Perhaps someone at Youtube noticed that most people flip to another tab or browser window during those unskippable ads that are frequently played at the beginning of videos.  Whatever the cause of the sudden outbreak of common sense, as of 2018 there will no longer be 30 second long ads which are unskippable.  This does not mean you will be free of ads, there will instead be unskippable ads of 15-20 seconds for you to ignore and you will still have ads in the middle of long videos.  They do have to sell more Red subscriptions after all.  Slashdot has linked to the original statement if you seek confirmation.

photo.jpg

"We're committed to providing a better ads experience for users online. As part of that, we've decided to stop supporting 30-second unskippable ads as of 2018 and focus instead on formats that work well for both users and advertisers," Google said."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Slashdot

Microsoft Cancels February's Monthly Cumulative Update

Subject: General Tech | February 17, 2017 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

Don’t worry if you didn’t receive cumulative Windows Updates this month.

At first, Microsoft showed no love for Valentine’s Day when they delayed the update that was supposed to roll out to the public. No explanation was provided. Two days later, Microsoft decided to write off the whole month. Everything that has been fixed since January 10th will be delayed until March 14th.

windows-10-bandaid.png

This is quite the wait. Peter Bright of Ars Technica notes that “off-cycle updates are also unpopular”. Yes, IT professionals hate it when software vendors are difficult to schedule around. I’m not sure how much that had to do with this decision, though. On the one hand, when a new build launches to the public, it’s not uncommon to have an update (or more) per week over the first couple of months. On the other hand, it would be reasonable for Microsoft to assume that customers, those who carefully test patches before deploying them, would not have ingested a huge, nebulous feature release into their network just weeks after launch. Still, out-of-band updates happen, and it’s interesting that it didn’t happen in this circumstance.

One thing that this patch should have fixed, however, is delayed or clipped display output in games (and other 3D applications) on multi-monitor systems. While not as critical as security, it is probably annoying for anyone affected to need to wait another 28 days. Microsoft claims it will be fixed then, though.

Source: Microsoft

Need an AMD processor right this instant? Perhaps Ashes of the Singularity Escalation with it?

Subject: General Tech | February 16, 2017 - 07:25 PM |
Tagged: amd, newegg, ashes of the singularity

Do you have a desperate need for a new processor, which precludes waiting for Ryzen to arrive?  Newegg and AMD have launched a giveaway you might be interested in, a free copy of Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation with the purchase of certain 6 or 8 core AMD FX processors

ashes.PNG

Models include the AMD FX-8370 with Wraith cooler, FX-8350 BE, FX-8320, FX-8300, FX-6350 and FX-6300.  They may not be the newest chips on the block but they didn't cost very much and they lasted a long while; plus they are currently on sale.  The giveaway lasts until May 7, 2017, or when the keys run out, so you can keep an eye on pricing if you want even better pricing.

 

Source: AMD

BOINC on your phone?

Subject: General Tech | February 16, 2017 - 02:24 PM |
Tagged: boinc, fast radio bursts

If you are not familiar with the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Networked Computing, aka BOINC, then hopefully it is because you devote your spare processing power to Folding@Home.  If you are still unfamiliar, it is a way to divvy up huge data sets and associated calculations to numerous local clients, install by volunteers who are willing to donate spare processing cycles; the most famous is SETI@Home.

The story at the The Register describes something similar, though instead of performing the calculations, you would capture the data.  The idea is to utilize the radio receivers in mobile devices and software defined radio kits to capture the mysterious fast radio bursts that astronomers have detected emanating from far off galaxies.  The researchers have a lot of work ahead of them as the 1GHz signals can be swamped by terrestrial sources and the periodicity of the signals is not clear.  It will be interesting to watch how this project unfolds.

boinc_600.jpg

"Friends, take out your mobiles in the name of science! Astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics are trying to look for fast radio bursts in the Milky Way galaxy with “low-cost radio receivers.” And by that, they mean, your smartphones."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

What's so bright about the Genius Scorpion M8-610?

Subject: General Tech | February 15, 2017 - 04:00 PM |
Tagged: input, genius, scorpion M8-610, gaming mouse, ambidextrous

The symmetrical design of the Genius Scorpion M8-610 will ensure comfort no matter what your chirality is, something that is seemingly more uncommon in gaming mice these days.  The Avago ADNS-9800 laser sensor can provide between 800 to 8200 DPI and all the buttons are Omron D2FC-F-7N, not bad for a mouse that runs less than $40.  Modders Inc took a look at the mouse and the software suite which accompanies it in their latest review; take a look at what they thought right here.

m861008.jpg

"While it is easy to get lured by fancy colors and flashy design when looking for a gaming mouse, it always comes down to functional consistency above all else. Aside from the keyboard, the mouse allows users to communicate with the computer and to the wider world online."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Modders Inc

50GB of high resolution Fallout, finally a use for that 8GB of VRAM?

Subject: General Tech | February 15, 2017 - 02:33 PM |
Tagged: gaming, fallout 4

[H]ard|OCP took a look into the effect on performance the gigantic high resolution texture pack has on system performance in their latest article.  For those who want the answer immediately, the largest amount of VRAM they saw utilized was a hair over 5GB, in most cases more than double the usage that the default textures use.  This certainly suggests that those with 4GB cards should reconsider installing the texture pack and that a 6GB card shouldn't see performance impacts.  As for the performance deltas, well we can't provide spoilers for their entire review!

h_quality.PNG

"Bethesda has released its official High Resolution Texture Pack DLC for Fallout 4. We will look at performance impact, VRAM capacity usage levels, and compare image quality to see if this High Resolution Texture Pack might be worthy of your bandwidth in actually improving the gameplay experience."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Vulkan is not extinct, in fact it might be about to erupt

Subject: General Tech | February 15, 2017 - 01:29 PM |
Tagged: vulkan, Intel, Intel Skylake, kaby lake

The open source API, Vulkan, just received a big birthday present from Intel as they added official support on their Skylake and Kaby Lake CPUs under Windows 10.  We have seen adoption of this API from a number of game engine designers, Unreal Engine and Unity have both embraced it, the latest DOOM release was updated to support Vulkan and there is even a Nintendo 64 renderer which runs on it.  Ars Technica points out that both AMD and NVIDIA have been supporting this API for a while and that we can expect to see Android implementations of this close to the metal solution in the near future.

khronos-2016-vulkanlogo2.png

"After months in beta, Intel's latest driver for its integrated GPUs (version 15.45.14.4590) adds support for the low-overhead Vulkan API for recent GPUs running in Windows 10. The driver supports HD and Iris 500- and 600-series GPUs, the ones that ship with 6th- and 7th-generation Skylake and Kaby Lake processors."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Ars Technica

Amazon Chimes in with a videoconferencing solution that is primed to take on the big players

Subject: General Tech | February 14, 2017 - 01:39 PM |
Tagged: amazon, chime, videoconferencing

If there is one thing we are short on, it is incompatible videoconferencing applications to use and support.  Obviously this is why Amazon purchased Biba and has now leaped into the fray to provide Chime, a truly unique service which will transmit your voice and video over the internet in something called a conference.  Sarcasm aside, Amazon Web Services have proven that they provide a solid set of services, which will be the backbone of the new app.  Those who have struggled with Adobe's offering or tried to have a meeting during many of the outage periods which plague various other providers might want to take a look.

The basic service is free, Plus allows screen sharing and access to corporate directories for $2.50 per user a month and the Pro version runs $15, allowing up to 100 people in a video call as well as the all important personalized URL.  Pop by Slashdot if you so desire.

Screen-Shot-2017-02-13-at-9.19.54-PM.png

"Amazon has released new service to make voice and video calls and share screen. Called Chime, the service is aimed at business users. It directly competes with well-known players such as Skype, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, Zoom, and Cisco's WebEx, among others."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Slashdot